The Kingdom in the Mess

The Kingdom Starts in Your Backyard  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:00
0 ratings
· 28 views

Jesus tells stories which portrays the kingdom of heaven existing in messy places; how do we find the kingdom in the middle of the mess?

Files
Notes
Transcript
Handout
Handout
This series about the kingdom of heaven started last week in Matthew 13. It is a long chapter and we are going to stay in Matthew 13 for a few more weeks because there are several kingdom parables packed into this one chapter. One of the lessons in these kingdom parables is that the kingdom of heaven is not just a future or other-worldly place. Jesus means for us to see that he brings the kingdom with him right now. We live right here today as people who have access to the kingdom of heaven right in our own backyards.
We began last week with the parable of the sower. Today we continue on Matthew 13 with two more parables that are related to each other. And note that I am skipping around in the chapter because these two parables are woven together with other parables we will look at more closely in coming weeks.
Matthew 13:24–30 (NIV)
Matthew 13:24–30 NIV
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”
Matthew 13:36–43 (NIV)
Matthew 13:36–43 NIV
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Matthew 13:47–52 (NIV)
Matthew 13:47–52 NIV
47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied. 52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
parables are stories that convey a kingdom idea and call for a response
This series began last week with an overview of what parables are and how parables should be heard and understood. Let me remind you this week of the definition I am using for a parable. Parables are stories that convey a kingdom idea and call for a response. So then, every one of these parables we turn to in Matthew should run through that filter of examination. In every parable we should be asking ourselves, what is the kingdom idea here? And what is the response that is being called for in this story? One of the helpful features we noted to help with this process is to identify the point of reference. Every parable contains a point of reference in which the reader is supposed to identify themselves into the story. Jesus told these stories as a way of showing us where we fit into the larger picture. It is helpful, then, to identify the point of reference as a way of helping us to name the kingdom idea and pull forth the response that is called for.
the point of reference let’s the reader enter the story
Today’s passage once again gives us a good head start in this direction because Jesus gives an explanation of the parable which Matthew includes for the readers. Look at the way in which the point of reference in these stories runs in two directions. In the parable of the weeds, we are meant to identify ourselves into the story as either the wheat or the weeds. And in the parable of the net we are meant to identify ourselves into the story as either the good fish or the bad.
automatic to assume faithful believers are wheat and people who reject Jesus are weeds
Let me stop right here and pause for a moment. I think we need to call out and acknowledge an automatic assumption that may happen here. Of course I am the wheat, not the weeds! Of course I am the good fish, not the bad! I believe in Jesus; I go to church; I check all the good fish boxes; I must be the wheat. Maybe the automatic assumption is that the weeds and the bad fish refer to people who do not have Christian faith and do not believe in Jesus. But hang on, that’s reading too much into the story. In the explanation that Jesus gives in this passage there is nothing given to us that directly identifies which people in the world are the wheat and which people in the world are the weeds.
the reader is left to wonder, which one am I?
This leaves us in a bit of a troubling spot. Now the reader is left to wonder, which one am I? and it is a troubling question because just look at the language Jesus uses to describe what happens to the weeds and to the bad fish. It is not a happy ending for those who come down on the wrong side of the harvest. Maybe we might want to automatically identify ourselves with the wheat and with the good fish because the alternative is scary. But how am I supposed to know for sure? How can I have assurance? This is all kind of messy to untangle.
the kingdom of heaven can sometimes be tangled up in messy places
the field where the wheat is growing is a mess
And maybe the messiness of this all is exactly the point Jesus is making in these stories. The kingdom of heaven can sometimes be tangled up in messy places. Let’s consider that for a while. In the parable of the weeds we find an unusual twist. The farmer allows the weeds to keep growing in the field mixed in with the wheat. He does not take any action to separate the weeds out during the growing season. It is not until the harvest that everything gets sorted out. That means the field where the wheat is growing is a mess. And the story here leaves us in a place which is very uncertain as to which side the reader will be assigned. We are left with the mess and do not find a resolution to the mess until the harvest. That doesn’t seem very helpful at first glance. But it does point us towards a reality we see in our world which shows up here in these stories as a kingdom idea. The kingdom of heaven can sometimes be tangled up in messy places.
kingdom idea that begins with Jesus himself — he came into the mess of our broken and sinful world
That is a kingdom idea we need to settle into and learn to live with. And it is a kingdom idea that begins with Jesus himself. Jesus came into this world as a flesh-and-blood human being. Jesus came into the mess of our broken and sinful world. Jesus did not air-drop into our existence with a gated perimeter around him. He did not set up a private members-only club behinds walls of some exclusive compound. Jesus did not come into this world by establishing a country club in which only the elite can enter and have access. The gospels show us exactly the opposite. When Jesus walked upon this earth, he intentionally went to the messiest places. Jesus hangs out with prostitutes. He strikes up conversations with Samaritan women. He goes to dinner parties with tax-collecting traitors who are on the side of the Roman empire. Jesus pauses to be with lepers and cripples instead of brushing them aside and moving on past. Jesus brings the kingdom of heaven right into the middle of all the messiest places in our world. Which means this: Jesus brings the kingdom of heaven to you and to me.
“thank you Jesus for coming to me and finding me in the middle of this mess and redeeming me by taking the guilt of my sin to the cross—now would you just do something about the rest of the mess in the world around me?”
There is a part of me that wants to respond to Jesus at that point in the story. There is a part of me that wants to say, “thank you Jesus for coming to me and finding me in the middle of this mess and redeeming me by taking the guilt of my sin to the cross—now would you just do something about the rest of the mess in the world around me?” That is the response that I want to give. I am left wondering why Jesus allows the mess to continue and why he doesn’t just move things along to clear the mess out of the way right now. But that is not what happens in this story. For now, the kingdom of heaven remains tangled up in messy places.
it is not our place in the garden to decide which plants stay and which plants go
Sometimes you and I grow a little impatient with that. It would be ridiculous in the farmer’s field for the wheat to be the thing that pulls out the weeds. It is not the good fish who tell the bad fish to get lost because that net is only for us. Wheat doesn’t do that; fish don’t do that. It is not our place in the garden to decide which plants stay and which plants go. It is not our place in the lake to decide what fish stays and what fish goes. The point of reference in this chapter is clear. In the stories that Jesus tells here in Matthew 13 you and I are not the harvesters, and we are not the fishermen. It is not our job to clear out the mess.
first response is one of honest self-examination
What, then, is our job? As I say, parables call for a response. What, then, is the response that is called for in these stories? There are two responses I see taking place here. One comes to us in the way in which these stories are left ambiguous—we are not left for certain to know who are the wheat and who are the weeds. The first response is one of honest self-examination because the kingdom idea reminds us that the kingdom of heaven exists in some messy places.
what if I am the one who is messy?
We have been working for just over a year now on having open doors for a congregation of refugees from Congo to be in the building on Sunday afternoons. Some of you that has been messy at times. There is a language barrier we try to work around. There are cultural differences we do not always understand. Our idea of how time and schedules work are completely different from how time and schedules work in African culture. Our idea in America of property and possessions is different than their understanding. And on top of that, these refugees have large families with lots of kids, and kids are messy. I will admit there are moments when I would rather not deal with the mess. But then this parable comes along and hits me square between the eyes with a very real question: who’s got the mess here? What if I am the one who is messy? I think Jesus means for this story to stir some deep self-examination. And then I thank God that the kingdom of heaven is, in fact, tangled up in the mess—in my mess. Because that is exactly where Jesus comes into our world to find us.
second response: to be the wheat; to be the good fish
wheat produces a crop
That’s the first response—to identify the kingdom, not apart from the mess of this world, but right in the middle of it. The second response is this: to be the wheat; to be the good fish. We are coming off last week’s message which opens Matthew 13 and showed us an example of seeds which produce a crop. The difference between the wheat and the weeds is that wheat produces a crop. We talked last week about what that crop looks like. This week we are reminded in this parable that our place remains as the seed which produces a crop. It is not your job to pull weeds. It is your job to produce fruit. It is not our job to police who belongs to the kingdom and who doesn’t. it is our job to produce kingdom fruit in and among the messy places of our world.
Matthew intentionally weaves a few other parables together into this chapter so that several kingdom ideas are developing alongside each other at the same time
There is one cliff-hanger I have to leave on this story for later. There are two kingdom ideas scattered right in the middle of these stories which we skipped over today. Matthew intentionally weaves a few other parables together into this chapter so that several kingdom ideas are developing alongside each other at the same time. We cannot get to all that today. If it is true what Jesus is showing us today that the kingdom of heaven is tangled up in messy places, then I think we could use a little more help knowing how to identify that kingdom in the middle of the mess. And I think Matthew intentionally places a few other parables into Matthew 13 just for that purpose. And then in a few weeks we will come back to the closing comment of Jesus in verse 52.
Matthew 13:52 (NIV)
Matthew 13:52 NIV
52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
We’ll figure out in the next few weeks what these old and new treasures are.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more